Useful and Harmful Activities of Fungi | Importance of Fungi


Fungi are important to us as they affect our daily life directly or indirectly. Some of them are friendly and provide us with food, life saving drugs and other items of human use while others cause diseases in man and plants and spoil food and other articles

Useful and Harmful Activities of Fungi or Fungus

We going to discuss about the Useful and Harmful Activities of Fungi, so keep tune with us, we are cover all Useful and Harmful Activities of Fungi with top five example.


Useful Activities of Fungi

In this paragraph we will discuss about the useful activities of fungi with five top examples below.

1. Fungi as food

2. Fungi and nitrogen fixation

3. Soil fertility

4. Fungi in the control of plant diseases

5. Fungi in biological research

[I]  Fungi provide us with food that is rich in proteins.

1. Yeasts.

 Dried yeasts contain about 50% protein. Besides, they are rich in vitamins and B-complex. Being rich in protein, it is commonly used as single cell protein (SCP).

2. Mushrooms. 

These are members of Basidiomycetes. Fruiting bodies of about 105 saprophytic mushrooms are edible; they are preferred for both their taste and food value. Different mushrooms have 21 to 30% protein and the proportion of fats and carbohydrates is relatively less. Therefore, they are considered to be a good food for diabetics and heart patients. World production of mushrooms is more than 300,000 metric tonnes per year.

3. Morels. 

These are highly prized edible fungi belonging to the genus Morchella of class Ascomycetes. They grow abundantly in apple and peach orchards of northern India.

[II] Fungi and nitrogen fixation

Biological nitrogen is the commonest and the largest cause of soil fertility. It is mainly achieved through symbiotic bacteria present in the root nodules of legumes. A small amount of atmospheric nitrogen is also fixed by non symbiotic fungi such as Rhodotorula and Saccharomyces

[III] Soil fertility

Some fungi like Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Rhizopus, Penicillium, etc., have soil binding properties. This is achieved by the secretion of mucilaginous substances. Many saprophytic fungi along with bacteria help in the decomposition of dead organic matter.As a result the amount of humus increases in the soil and it becomes more fertile.

[IV] Fungi in the control of plant diseases

Many fungi are helpful in controlling plant diseases caused by soil borne pathogens such as nematodes, insects, viruses and other fungi. These fungi compete with pathogens for essential nutrients or destroy them.

[V] Fungi in biological research

1. In Biological assay. 

Use of microorganisms in determining the potency of drugs, detection and estimation of various chemicals in given samples and other similar purposes is known as biological assay. Amongst fungi, Aspergillus niger is used to detect very minute quantities of Zn, Ca, Pb, Mn, Mo, Cu, etc., in given samples. Similarly, Neurospora crassa is used as a test organism to detect the presence and quantity of vitamin B-complex in any sample.

2. In genetic experiments. 

Neurospora is an ideal material for genetic and biochemical studies. It is popularly known as “Drosophila of Plant Kingdom”, because of its suitability in the studies of heredity. Besides this, Physarum polycephalum is also a good material for the study of mitotic cycle and DNA synthesis.

[VI] Fungi as a source of hormones

Gibberellin or gibberellic acid is a growth obtained from promoting hormone an ascomycetous fungus Gibberella fujikuroi. Besides stimulating growth in genetically dwarf plants, it also accelerates flowering and breaks dormancy of certain resting bodies such as potato tubers.

[VII]  Mycorrhiza

It is a symbiotic association between fungal hyphae and roots of higher plants. Several fungal genera such as Amanita, Boletus, Tricholoma and as Scleroderma cover the roots of evergreen trees. These fungi decompose the dead organic matter and thus make mineral nutrients available to the roots.

[VIII] Fungi in industry

1. In Baking industry. 

Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast) popularly known as baker’s yeast is widely used in the baking industry.

2. In production of alcoholic beverages.

beverages. Preparation of alcoholic beverages involves fermentation of sugar or salt solution by yeast. cerevisiae particularly Saccharomyces and S.ellipsoideus. The enzyme zymase present in yeast cells converts hexose sugars into alcohol and CO² 

Besides this, yeast also has two more enzymes- sucrase and maltase which facilitate the conversion of other sugars into hexose sugar.

3. In acid production.

 Several fungi are helpful in the commercial production of many organic acids. A list of industrially important acids produced by fungi is given in 

4. In enzyme production. 

Many fungi produce enzymes which have industrial uses. Table 5 gives a list of some enzymes, along with their Sources.

5. In cheese Penicillium Making.

 Camembert and P. roqueforti are used in cheese making. These molds add a special flavour to the cheese.

6. In vitamin extraction.

 Some fungi are a rich source of vitamins.

7. In antibiotic production. 

Antibiotics are substances produced by microorganisms which

inhibit or kill other microorganisms. At present more than 700 fungal species are known to secrete these antifungal and antibacterial substances. The first antibiotic penicillin was extracted from Penicillium notatum by Sir Alexander Fleming in 1928, for which he was awarded the Nobel prize in 1945. Some important antibiotics and their sources are given in.

Harmful Activities Of Fungi

If you think fungus activities are good in nature sorry dear there are so many harmful activities found in fungi so are you curious about the harmful activities of fungi? we are listing six harmful activities with examples below.

[I] Deterioration of articles

Saprophytic fungi(e.g Rhizopus,Mucor, Aspergillus, etc.) grow on food articles such as bread, jam, pickles, meat, etc., and make them inedible. They also destroy leather articles. Damage of library books by cellulose eating fungi is quite frequent. In addition, rubber, wool and painted surfaces are damaged by species of Aspergillus, Penicillium, Cladosporium, Alternaria and Rhizopus. Etching and blurring of microscopes and camera lenses is due to Aspergillus and Helminthosporium.

[II] Decay of wood

The biological decomposition Decay is organic matter. In India commercial timber yielding plants such as sal, teak, sisham, deodar, etc, are destroyed by species of Fomes, Polyporus, secrete fungi These etc.Ganoderma, cellulose and lignin decomposing enzymes (e.g, cellulose and phenolic oxidase) and cause heart rot.

[III] Staining of wood

Some fungi feed on sap wood. Although these fungi do not destroy the wood but stain it. Penicillium sp. give yellow stain to the wood, Fusarium negundi red and Trula ligniperda stains


[IV]  Fungal toxins

Mushrooms like Amanita phalloides, A. virosa and A. muscaria are poisonous and are quite a menace to common people. Poisoning by these mushrooms causes abdominal pains with vomiting, cold sweats, diarrhoea, excessive thirst and eventually death. fungus Claviceps purpurea, a parasitic (causing ergot of rye) contains a powerful poison. When eaten, it causes gangrenes and convulsions. LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide), a hallucinogenic

and hypnotic compound, is also obtained from Claviceps.

Besides this, some fungi secrete a group of toxic compounds called aflatoxins. Aspergillus

flavus, an important toxin producing fungus, frequently infects ground nuts. Animals eating such nuts fall sick.

[V] Plant diseases

A disease may be defined as a disturbance brought about by a living organism or an environmental factor which interferes with manufacture, translocation or utilization of nutrients, yield loss and morphological changes. A disease causing agent is known as pathogen and the branch of botany that deals with all aspects of plant diseases is known as Phytopathology (phyton = plant, pathos= sufferings, logos = knowledge).

Fungi infect many economically important plants  and minimise the yield of food grains considerably. In 1945 late blight of potato (caused by Phytophthora infestans) destroyed millions of acres of potato crop and caused famine in Ireland. It resulted in the death of about a million people and almost the same number of people migrated to other continents. Similarly, the 1942 Bengal famine which resulted in the death of two million people was due to destruction of rice crop by brown leaf spot disease caused by Helminthosporium oryzae.

[VI] Human and animal diseases

A good number of human and animal diseases are caused by fungi. Fungal infections are either restricted to the skin and its appendages like hair, nails, hooves, horns, etc., (superficial mycosis) or may infect internal organs like lungs, intestine, deep skin, brain, etc., (deep mycosis).

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